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Suharto questioned for alleged corruption, collusion.

JAKARTA, Dec. 9 Kyodo

Former President Suharto was questioned by prosecutors for four hours Wednesday on alleged political and economic crimes during his 32 years in office. Suharto, saying all Indonesian citizens have an equal position before the law and the government, showed up at the Jakarta Higher Prosecutor's Office. ''I have met the summons of the Attorney General's Office to give my explanation,'' Suharto told a press conference after questioning. ''I answered all the questions, I gave all the explanations.'' Suharto said he is ready to be summoned again. ''I always prepare myself, because I realize that in this law-governed state, every citizen has an equal position...and shall be obliged to uphold the law and government.'' The venue for the questioning was suddenly moved from the Attorney General's Office to the Jakarta Higher Prosecutors' Office because about 200 students stayed overnight near the Attorney General's Office to wait for the session. Barman Zahir, spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, told reporters his office had earlier prepared other places, including the Jakarta Higher Prosecutor's Office and some district prosecutors offices, to question Suharto to foil student protests. ''We worried rallies could disturb the questioning,'' Barman said. Wearing brown batik and a Muslim black cap, and accompanied by seven of his eight lawyers, Suharto arrived at 7:17 a.m. at the prosecutor's office, where he was questioned by three members of a team from the Attorney General's Office led by Antonius Sujata, junior attorney general for special crimes. According to Barman, Suharto was ''questioned neither as a suspect nor as a witness,'' saying he was questioned only ''to give his explanations'' of the alleged practices of collusion, corruption and nepotism during his rule. Barman only narrowly answered reporters' questions about the examination, refusing to give details because ''it's still a preliminary examination.'' Barman said the team asked 43 questions of Suharto, including about his deposits totaling 23 billion rupiahs (about 3 million U.S. dollars) in two national commercial banks and three state banks. Suharto has said the money was all obtained legally, noting it came from his pay, travel allowances, and rent from two houses he owned. Questions were also raised about seven charitable foundations Suharto chaired in a private capacity while he was president. The foundations, officially under state control since last month, have an estimated combined value of 4.1 trillion rupiahs. In a hearing with parliamentarians Monday, Attorney General Andi Muhammad Ghalib said no evidence had been found proving Suharto was guilty of corruption. But Ghalib said Suharto had violated ''the principles of appropriate conduct'' when he used his charitable foundations to do business. The Attorney General's Office also found about 280 hectares of land registered in Suharto's name in Jakarta, Yogyakarta and East Kalimantan (Borneo). Suharto has denied allegations he owns a large lot of land, saying it does not belong to him but to foundations. He said he only owns 5 hectares of land personally. According to Barman, the team from the Attorney General's Office also questioned Suharto about the national car project launched by his youngest son Hutomo ''Tommy'' Mandala Putra. On Tuesday, the office questioned Tunky Ariwibowo, a former minister of trade and industry under Suharto, over the car project. Ghalib has described the car program as ''graft-infested'' and designed entirely for self-profit, and claimed it has caused the country losses of 1.55 billion dollars. Tunky issued a ministerial decree in February 1996 authorizing Tommy's company, PT Timor Putra Nasional, to implement the project. The company was the sole recipient of an import duty and luxury tax exemption from late 1996 to January 1998 when the International Monetary Fund insisted Indonesia stop the preferential treatment. The tax exemption made the car 60% cheaper than its foreign competitors in the domestic market. Last week, President B.J. Habibie ordered Ghalib to conduct a thorough examination of Suharto and gave the attorney general full authority to decide whether the former president should be placed under house arrest. Apart from Suharto, the Attorney General's Office also questioned Mohamad ''Bob'' Hasan, a former minister of trade and industry under Suharto, on suspicion of corruption. Hasan, who served as minister for only one month in Suharto's last cabinet, was the former president's golfing and fishing buddy. He is known as Indonesia's ''timber king'' because of his extensive holdings in the timber business.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Dec 14, 1998
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